Curtis Lenz didn’t want to be a wrestler. Now, the Rainier High School senior is a state champion.
Lenz, after waiting out a first-round bye on Friday, pinned his first two opponents.
Then, in the final match of his high school career on Saturday at the Tacoma Dome, Lenz calmly and efficiently worked to a 4-1 decision over Kalama’s Chase Staup.
“I’m feeling like I’ve improved, and I’ve made my family proud,” Lenz said. “It’s Rainier’s first state champion in a long time.”
That was the first Class 2B/1B state title for the 106-pounder, who took fourth last year, and the first for Rainier in more than a decade.
Rainier coach Chris Holterman said Lenz took a more serious interest in wrestling following his sophomore season.
“I’m not really much of a sports kind of person,” Lenz said. “My parents wanted me to be active, so they wanted me to do at least one sport a year.
“I wasn’t going to do baseball again. I’m not going to play basketball, obviously at 5-foot-whatever. And I’m not going to play football because I’m 106 pounds. So, I did wrestling.”
Lenz said the sport grew on him. He enjoys the push, the work and the team environment — it’s like a job.
“That’s kind of how he approaches it, which is that blue-collar thing,” Holterman said. “You pack your lunch, you go to work and then go home.”
Lenz was pleased but calm following his title match, and said he was happy to improve.
“Even if I got third this year, I would have been pleased with the outcome, because it means I did better than last year,” Lenz said. “It means I’ve gotten better.”
But Lenz, who finished this season 30-2 — and never lost to a wrestler in the 2B/1B classifications — almost effortlessly won his bracket.
He beat Staup in each of their meetings this season.
“He knows all of my moves. He knows what I like to do,” Lenz said. “So, it’s just who wants it more, who’s in better shape, who’s going to be faster.”
That was Lenz. He quickly got two points for a takedown in the first round, another two for a reversal in the second, then held on to win.
“He’s wrestled the tough kids this year and just kept going,” Holterman said. “He’s not a flashy kid. His takedowns are really simple and really basic, but he does them really well.
“I guess if you’re a good, solid wrestler, you don’t have to be fancy. He just enjoys getting out there and wrestling.”
Holterman said Lenz’s win will help promote the sport at Rainier. Lenz is the fifth state champion in Rainier’s program history.
Sean Sanford (2006), Josh Whittaker (2002), Steve Fittinger (2001) and Mike Piscopo (1998) were the only Mountaineers titlists before Lenz.
“Any time you get a state champion in something, it draws interest,” Holterman said. “That’s the kind of stuff that gets kids excited and gets them to turn out.”
Holterman said having a wrestler like Lenz — whom younger wrestlers have learned from — is big.
He used Rainier freshman Tyler Barlass as an example. The two wrestled often during practice, and Barlass also placed for Rainier — fifth at 106 pounds.
“I definitely think it’s going to get better,” Lenz said. “There’s definitely going to be more people from Rainier out on these mats soon. … Next year, even. It’s going to get better. It’s going to go uphill from here.”